Point Man for the Wedge Strategy: New Report Examines Political Activities of Bishop Harry Jackson, Face of the Religious Right's Outreach to African Americans

Jackson leading new anti-marriage-equality organizing in District of Columbia while mobilizing opposition fighting federal hate crimes law

A new report released today by People For the American Way Foundation examines the political activities of Bishop Harry Jackson, who has emerged as the leading African American voice of the Religious Right political movement. The Maryland-based Jackson, who helped organize religious leaders to back anti-gay ballot initiatives in 2008, is now waging a campaign in the District of Columbia against the Council's move toward marriage equality. He is hosting an anti-marriage rally in D.C. on Tuesday, April 28. He also continues to fight federal hate crimes legislation.

"Point Man for the Wedge Strategy" follows Jackson's five years on the national political scene since he announced that God told him to campaign for George W. Bush's reelection in 2004. Jackson became a national media figure with help from Religious Right leaders eager for someone to lead their outreach to churchgoing African Americans.

"Religious Right leaders look at the Black Church as a recruiting ground for their anti-gay and anti-choice culture war," said report author Peter Montgomery, a People For the American Way Foundation Senior Fellow. "Harry Jackson is their not-so-secret weapon. Bishop Jackson often tries to sound reasonable in mainstream media appearances and we want to give people a fuller portrait, drawn from his own words and actions."

The report, which draws on first-person visits to Jackson appearances as well as published reports, includes extensive links to Jackson video appearances available online. Among the items of interest:

  • After Jackson told Christians in 2004 that God had told him to campaign for George W. Bush's reelection, Religious Right leaders invited him into their inner circles and helped him launch the High Impact Leadership Coalition, a vehicle for his public appearances.
  • In 2008, Jackson appeared on television and in an ad produced by a right-wing organization trying to convince Black Christians not to vote for Barack Obama. In 2006 he campaigned for Republican candidates Ken Blackwell and Michael Steele. He gets political mileage out of describing himself as a "registered Democrat" but has said that's largely to deflect criticism in his home state of Maryland.
  • Jackson is harshly critical of traditional civil rights leaders and organizations like the NAACP and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, accusing them of selling out African American families by supporting LGBT equality.
  • Jackson, who mobilized multiracial religious community events backing anti-marriage equality initiatives in 2008, says he's not anti-gay, but he has a long track record saying the gay rights movement is inspired by Satan and is a sworn enemy of religious liberty and the church. In 2007 he organized black clergy to join a dishonest media campaign to defeat hate crimes legislation by saying it would "muzzle" black clergy.
  • Jackson, who denounces abortion as "black genocide," has waged a campaign against government funding for Planned Parenthood, telling rally attendees last August, "there's got to be a concerted effort that we take Planned Parenthood out. They've put out a hit on all children, but they've set up themselves to put out a hit on black and Hispanic babies especially. It's time that we take them out."
  • Jackson has become an all-purpose spokesman for right-wing causes, lending his voice to an Astroturf campaign by oil drilling interests in 2008 and 2009 accusing environmentalists of waging a "war on the poor."

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People For the American Way Foundation and its advocacy affiliate People For the American Way monitor, analyze and reports on the Religious Right through reports and daily analysis on www.rightwingwatch.org.

The African American Ministers Leadership Council (AAMLC), a project of People For the American Way Foundation, is a network of thousands of churches and clergy nationwide committed to being strong advocates for social justice. The ministers are empowering their communities through voter registration and civic participation programs, by building public support and political momentum for stronger public schools, and educating their congregations about equal justice for LGBT people. They are available to discuss the detrimental agendas of the Religious Right and a variety of other issues including race, religion, politics, and the role of the Black Church.

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